Friday, July 28, 2006


This past Wednesday was the 50th Anniversary of Gemal Abd al-Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal, a pivotal moment in the modern Middle East. Via an approving link in NRO's The Corner, I came across this Weekly Standard article by Arthur Herman. In it, Herman makes a number of startling claims ("Even more than the Cold War, the Suez crisis has shaped the world we live in." Huh?) but I'm more interested in the overall tone of the piece, which neatly displays your basic conservative refusal to recognize that colonialism was hell for the colonized. For example, Herman insists that Nasser's takeover of the canal amounted to theft, but makes no mention of the over 125,000 Egyptian conscripts who died while digging the thing, let alone acknowledge that this, along with the fact that the canal was, you know, in their country, may have given Egypt a legitimate claim.

I'm not interested in defending Nasser, who was, by most accounts, a pretty brutal authoritarian dictator (Though, of course, conservatives have no problem with authoritarian dictators whose brutality is employed to defend the privileges of colonial elites and the holdings of Western multinationals, but I digress...) Regardless of what one thinks of Nasser, the fact is that he is still greatly respected by many in the Middle East as having stood up for the Arabs against a vastly more powerful Western oppressor.

It seems that this same phenomenon is taking place in regards to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the most effective Arab military organization of the modern era, and they're representing for the Arabs in a way that no one really has since Nasser. This isn't to suggest that people are embracing Hezbollah's program, I think it's clear that a majority of people in the Arab world would not want to live under a Hezbollah-type government, just that after decades of being confronted with news and footage from the occupation of Palestine, many are impressed to see someone finally standing up to Israel. The fact that Israel has persisted in it's crushing bombing campaign ,even as it admits that the stated goals of that campaign are unattainable, also strongly works in Hezbollah's favor.

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